Monthly Archives: May 2014

Summer Tomato Tart

Cost: about 80p, or £1.60 with mozzarella to serve. Serves 2 as a main course or more as a side dish.

A summery version of the Savoury Spring Tart – or really, for this almost-summer that we find ourselves in now, when we’re still willing the good weather to fully take hold, but meanwhile ingredients need a bit of helping along. We made two versions of this tomato tart, one with gorgeous, pungent vine cherry tomatoes (from Lidl!) and one with those watery supermarket tomatoes that cost almost nothing but taste of exactly nothing. For tomatoes like these, which don’t really stand up to eating on their own, the flavour is encouraged along with a slick of tomato puree and a tangle of caramelised onions, as well as a grinding of flaky Maldon salt before the heat and extra time in the oven reminds them of what tomatoes are supposed to taste like and burnishes the pastry to a deeper gold. The onions in this version also protect the pastry from sogginess, but with really good cherry tomatoes they aren’t really needed to help the flavours sing.

Cherry Tomato Tart

Pale Tomato Tart (good cherry tomatoes)

Golden Tomato Tart (with    watery tomatoes that need a bit of help)

Golden Tomato Tart (with watery tomatoes that need a bit of help)

Both of these are very enjoyable – the paler tart with cherry tomatoes is more delicate and the tomatoes aren’t cooked as much as they are warmed, the oven heat just ripening them a little more, and the tart really just shows them off. The darker tart is more complex, with punchier flavours – more umami, salt and sugar, a symphony rather than a solo.

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Malaysian Beef Rendang

Cost: £12 for 8 people as a main course, very generously

A Malay classic – nuggets of beef slow-cooked to collapsing tenderness, in a fragrant, almost caramelised curry. The shopping list of spices isn’t particularly long – we happened to have almost everything on hand, and the base of the curry is coconut milk, so it’s dairy free but still gorgeously rich. This recipe was originally from a butchery course at the Waitrose cooking school, and overall winner in a family rendang-off that my brother won against my parents.

The only changes I’ve made have been for convenience, as well as using beef shin instead of chuck – shin is my favourite cut for this kind of slow-cooked dish, where the collagen breaks down to give a silky, rich sauce and the meat breaks down without becoming tough into pink-tinged shreds.

Beef rendang on paratha

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Mini Pavlovas

Cost: about 50p for meringues to serve 16, plus £1 for cream and a bit more for fruit, depending on what you use

Lofty, yet indulgent, meringues with whipped cream are a dessert I have always adored but for years feared to make. My mother and I used to try different techniques at home, faffing about with hot sugar and different sugars, producing batches of cracked meringue, orange permatanned meringue, flat, despondent meringue and once, in a misguided attempt to save energy by cooking the main course and dessert in the same oven, meringue that tasted strongly and unmistakeably of roast pork.

I kept on trying though, partly because, along with macarons and egg-white omelettes, meringues are an excellent way of using up egg whites left over from mayonnaise or patisserie cream or similar – as well as being the kind of dessert that pleases everyone. Particularly with a big group of people (who by the law of large numbers often include dairy-free or gluten-free restrictions) I’ve found that it’s a really easy, pleasing pudding – we put out a tower of mini-meringue nests stacked onto a plate, a bowl of squidgy whipped cream (with a small extra bowl of whipped dairy-free cream) and another of fruit, and let everyone help themselves.

Meringue nests with cream and fresh raspberries

Meringue nests with cream and fresh raspberries

In case you were wondering how my meringue breakthrough happened, I probably came close to giving up completely when I couldn’t get my egg whites to make any kind of peak, so would pour the mixture out into a sad puddle that would bake into a rubbery disk. What changed? The hot water to our kitchen was fixed, and I had the unwelcome realisation that for the last few months, my bowls had never been completely grease-free. Moving swiftly on, things changed a few months ago – and the age of Reliable Meringues was ushered in by our good friend Tchern, who is a research postdoc and the best home cook I know. He came round for dinner and I asked him to walk me through the meringue process. The method below, which I have made many times since with consistent results, is his.

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Easy Apple Upside Down Cake

Such a lovely, easy cake – the kind you can knock up on a weeknight after work or on holiday in an unfamiliar kitchen because you don’t need fancy equipment or special ingredients (I’ve included homely measurements for people without scales). The apples soften and caramelise into tenderly curling petals, fanned out into a burnished rose that rests on a pillowy layer of French yoghurt cake, flavouring it with apple-fragranced honey.
Little Honey Apple Cake
We made this for the first time on holiday, improvising a traditional sponge cake batter from the flour and sugar in the cupboard of the holiday home, beating by hand and measuring ingredients approximately in spoonfuls. Coming home, I wanted to recreate the cake but with a moister, more crumbly texture – the type you get when a cake incorporates yoghurt or crème fraiche. (I’ve included photos of both the half-sized holiday cake and the home cake here). The recipe for the cake layer is from the incomparable Dorie Greenspan, and acts almost like the pastry in a tarte tatin here. How appropriate that it is a relaxed French dessert!

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